A couple weeks back, I noted that a number of Republican governors were looking to entirely eliminate their states’ spending on the arts and public broadcasting. Over the long weekend, a number of them made good on those threats.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the state legislature’s appropriations for the Kansas Arts Commission, enforcing an executive order he signed in February eliminating the commission — and all five commission members’ jobs. Brownback plans to replace the commission with a private foundation, but his actions, taken over the legislature’s objections, make Kansas the only state without an arts agency. As the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies noted, that $689,000 targeted in the veto was a whopping 0.005 percent of the state’s budget, and it’s not as if it’s trading off with other programs. The budget the legislature approved would have created a $50 million budget surplus next year before Brownback’s additional cuts.
What the veto does do is let Brownback say he’s leading the charge against state funding for the arts, something he intends to keep alive in the next budget cycle. He spared Kansas public broadcasters, stopping short of line-item vetoing their appropriations this year, while telling them to make alternative plans so they’ll be ready when he comes for their funding next year.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t wait until the next budget cycle. He vetoed the state’s $4.8 million appropriation for public broadcasting as part of $615 million he excised from the budget before signing it. The New York Times reports that at least one Florida public broadcaster has already sold itself, and another’s staying alive through a partnership.
I don’t think that arts and public broadcasting funding is going to be a top-level political issue in the 2012 cycle. But it does seem like it’s a way for Republican politicians on the make, like Brownback, Scott, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, to shore up their credentials as they cast their eyes towards the next level.